CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy haven't fared well when they haven't had Robbie Keane this season, and he wasn't the only important player missing Saturday night – Landon Donovan and Robbie Rogers, too, were out – when they took on Vancouver in a key Western Conference matchup.
As it turns out, it was no problem. Youngsters Jose Villarreal and Gyasi Zardes teamed up admirably on the frontline for LA, each scoring a goal and playing big roles as the Galaxy dominated the Whitecaps, repeatedly creating chances and outfiring their foes, 22-4, en route to a 2-1 triumph.
It was a huge win for LA, which has made a habit of dropping points in games they've dictated this year, and a major statement from their most prominent young forwards with a crowded slate of league, CONCACAF Champions League and International Champions Cup matches just ahead.
“That was an important game for the team,” goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini said. “No Landon, no Robbie, and it was important for the kids up front to show that they can help us out, and that's what happened tonight. Two good goals, and it's good for the confidence. At the end of the day, we need everyone.”
Villarreal, making his first MLS start since June 8, did well holding the ball and pressuring Vancouver's defenders, and he scored his second league goal this season only with an assist from referee Chris Penso, who overruled linesman Jeremy Hanson's decision that he was offside.
“I honestly thought I wasn't offside,” Villarreal said. “So I was, like, 'OK, offside, just play on.' Then I saw the center ref go to the linesman, then there was just like a big controversial play ... just happy we got the goal.”
Zardes, in his 10th successive league start, gave LA the three points with his third goal of the season -- and his first with his feet. Dunivant said Zardes “gave me the motion to send it deep,” and the swift striker ran it down at the left byline.
“I just tried to be composed when I was in the box,” Zardes said. “I tried to juke [Rusin],and he slipped, and just work on my technique like my coaches tell me. Just struck the ball and it went in.”
Sounds simple, but he'd had so many chances in the preceding games, using his speed and strength to get into positions but faltering with his finish. This one, he said, is “definitely a confidence boost, but I always tell myself I have to keep working hard.”
Head coach Bruce Arena was, of course, pleased.
“The goal was an important goal,” he said. “It's going to take a little time. He's still a young player for our league. He works hard, and I'm confident he'll continue to get better.”